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The Worst Advice You'll Get As A Freelancer

Updated on March 5, 2015

Bad Freelancing Advice

If you're a freelancer, you've probably heard all this advice before.

Even if you're not a freelancer, chances are you've stumbled across an article on the internet full of just these sorts of well-meaning tips.

Well, they may be well-meaning, but that doesn't mean they're not dead-wrong.

Here are my top three picks for the most repeated and most unrealistic advice that freelancers get.

But First Tell Me This:

What do you love about being a freelancer?

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Reading
Reading | Source

1. 'Value yourself. Never settle for less than one hundred dollars per article. I don't.'

How often have you heard this kind of talk from successful freelancers?

No one can disagree with them, fundamentally. Of course you should value yourself. But it's hard to hear this advice coming from people who say they are getting 100,000 dollars a month, and who are, at the very least, pretty successful. The freelancers who are making three dollars an article on oDesk certainly would rather be making a hundred, too.

The problem is that is beginning freelancers are, by definition, beginners. They can't charge the same amount as successful freelancers because they don't have the same experience or publishing credits to show to potential clients. Sure, you may be the next Oscar Wilde, but unless you can prove it materially, you're going to be stuck with those three dollars assignments.

Freelancing is like any other job: you start as an intern and slowly work your way up. Except that we don't call it an internship, we call it working for free as a way to build publishing credits.

Bottom line: Valuing yourself is great if you don't value a job.

2. 'Never use a content mill.'

This is the equivalent of someone who's pulled himself up by the bootstraps saying anyone can do it. They've forgotten how tough it was to get started.

Of course, if you can command 100 dollars a blog post, you can get by without content mills. But for those beginning freelancers who are writing for free at reputable sites in order to build publishing credits, twenty dollars made here and there can help tide you over.

Remember, though, that a content mill won't help you in your writing career: it can be useful if you're at the stage where you're not yet making money with writing. Don't depend on it to get clients, but you can spend a few hours there a day as a way to get some necessary money.

Bottom Line: The important thing is to balance your time, spending some days on your long-term projects, others pitching to blogs and writing articles, and still more time making connections and on social media.

Bonus: How I Structure My Week

Here's how I structure my week:

  • Monday: write seven posts for my blog, which I schedule throughout the week; work on my personal projects, including my novel. Engage in social media to draw traffic back to my sites.
  • Tuesday: write my hubs of the week and guest posts, articles, etc. Also spend a short time working on personal projects. Engage in social media.
  • Wednesday, Thursday: Send pitches to five-ten sites. Social media.
  • Friday: Edit Tuesday's articles and guest posts before sending them to their respective sites. Also social media and work on my personal project if I have time.
  • I try to have a break Saturday and Sunday, though I tend to do some work at least on Saturday.

This schedule, of course, is far from set in stone. In-person connections and paid articles rank highest when deciding how to change it.

How do you structure your week?

Writing a book
Writing a book | Source

3. 'Always Have a Contract.'

Again, this is just an unnecessary worry for many of the freelancers starting out.

Once you find yourself with lots of gigs worth good money, you can think about this. But if you stumble upon a first client who is paying you twenty-five dollars for an article, don't overstress about legal issues. You won't go to jail for unpaid taxes on twenty-five dollars, either.

A lot of sites that regularly pay for articles have a whole system in place for paying their writers. If you're dealing with an individual, the key is communication. Chances are, they've worked with writers before, so if you're worried they won't pay you, you can google them. (You should google them anyway.) The terms of payment should always be clear before you start writing.

Bottom Line: Sending your client a contract is fine, but not doing so is fine too, as long as you're both on the same page.

Gutenberg Press
Gutenberg Press

Conclusion

Freelance writing can be very frustrating, especially when you're surrounded by people on the internet who've made it and who are giving you well-meant but annoyingly unrealistic advice. The way I deal with my current low wages is by thinking of it as an internship: when I write for nothing, it's for reputable sites. It's a way to increase traffic back to my website and to eventually give me more publishing credits, which will allow me to get more frequent assignments by paying sites and magazines.

Most people start from the bottom. That's why the advice to charge what you're worth doesn't make sense. You may be an amazing writer, but if you don't have the experience or credits to show for it, you're not going to get a lot of jobs. So my advice is: accept those non-paying jobs, as long as they're for reputable sites, and soon you'll be on your way to getting great, paying assignments.

Now Tell Me This:

What's the worst advice you've ever received?

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Comments

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    • Amanda108 profile image

      Amanda 

      3 years ago from Michigan, United States

      What an excellent rebuttal to those pieces of 'advice' given by the professionals to us beginners, as if their way is the only way. Not to imply I believe you meant this article to be argumentative, as it's written in a pleasant and entertaining tone, but I did find myself thinking, "Hah! Yes!" with a little mental air punch. ;-)

      Everyone finds their own path. Advice from experts is great, but people (both those reading the help articles and those writing them) need to keep in mind that freelance writers are all at different levels, in different markets, etc. What works for one doesn't work for all.

      I particularly liked your first point, about the amount per article written. I'm fairly certain it's not only ridiculously hilarious, but actually offensive to demand such a high salary for a single article (in most circumstances; exceptions always exist, of course) when one is just starting out.

      The intern comparison is excellent, one I hope many who read this Hub will take to heart in an encouraging manner. Thanks for this!

    • profile image

      Jill Moore 

      3 years ago

      That is really great advice, thank you for taking the time to support another writer.

    • BessieBooks profile imageAUTHOR

      BessieBooks 

      3 years ago

      Thanks for your comments!

      Jill, there are definitely ways to make freelancing work as a part-timer. For instance, start a blog that you update once a week. The other days, spend a few hours pitching: find one blog every day to pitch to, with the goal of getting at least once writing assignment per week. Once you have published three unpaid writing assignments on reputable sites, start pitching only paid gigs. You can definitely make progress in this way by spending just a few hours a day doing this. Hope this suggestion helps!

    • profile image

      Jill Moore 

      3 years ago

      I'm an aspiring freelance writer and this hub was great. I seem to be stuck at the stage of reading everything and writing nothing - which, lets face it, is not going to launch my career. I have been getting overwhelmed by the conflicting advice out there (and feeling like I'm just too old to get started!). This is great hub to get me over that - though your work schedule is scary! I'm a full time parent and, at this point, only want to be part-time. Trying to work out where my focus should be with fewer hours to give is my priority right now.

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 

      3 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      i am not a freelance writer but some advice were useful

    • MPG Narratives profile image

      Marie Giunta 

      3 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      This is a very refreshing article for any budding freelance writer. Everyone has to start somewhere, no matter what the profession, so I do hope many young people understand this very important fact. I like your approach to getting 'publishing credits', it makes good sense.

    • B. Leekley profile image

      Brian Leekley 

      3 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

      This hub makes good sense.

    • BessieBooks profile imageAUTHOR

      BessieBooks 

      3 years ago

      Jodah and cam8510--Good points, it's important to stay balanced. Don't be too choosy or unrealistic with your expectations or you won't get any jobs, but don't accept overly low wages either, or you won't make enough to eat! Thanks for your feedback!

    • cam8510 profile image

      Chris Mills 

      3 years ago from Missoula, Montana through August 2018

      Thanks for the good advice. Unrealistic expectations are motivation killers.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      3 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Wonderful hub, great advice unlike a lot of what is usually given. When you are starting out I think you just have to feel your way and accept the jobs that come your way without being too choosy or asking for unreal money. I feel I have been quite lucky for the jobs I have received so far even though I don't have regular clients. Voted up.

    • BessieBooks profile imageAUTHOR

      BessieBooks 

      3 years ago

      Thanks for your feedback everyone! I'm glad you like this hub.

      Gene, you're right, that can be a very frustrating aspect of freelancing!

    • gposchman profile image

      Gene Poschman 

      3 years ago from San Francisco Bay Area

      I liked the article, but what you weekly schedule did not include are the interruptions you have to deal with because you are a freelance writer and people do not always see that as working.

      Gene

    • grand old lady profile image

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 

      3 years ago from Philippines

      I have been a freelancer most of my life, and your advice is spot on. I started before the computer age, and notice that even now, the wrong advice is still the same. I love your discipline and your weekly schedule. It's very inspiring, as 30 years of living this way can have its ups and downs, as with any profession. We all need a boost at the right time. Thank you very much.

    • SweetiePie profile image

      SweetiePie 

      3 years ago from Southern California, USA

      There are always gurus in every field, whether it be freelancing or fitness, who will tell you to do things like them. However, we are all different, and we have to do what is best for us. Also, some gurus might make themselves seem more successful than they are because page views help them. It is something to keep in mind. I think most of us are working and writing on many projects, and that is just how it is.

    • Dee aka Nonna profile image

      Dee aka Nonna 

      3 years ago

      Thank you. I love everything about this hub. Especially love your content mill section.....you are so right.....It is so hard to get started and people who "have made it" or think they have forget that one fact. So, thank you.

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